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2010 Wow! What a Year!

2010 Annual Report - WOW! What a Year!

From the Ozark Mountains to the Mississippi River delta and every county in between, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Arkansas provided almost $70 million in financial assistance and $25.4 million in technical assistance in 2010 to help landowners protect and conserve the Natural State’s resources. This money was used to address Arkansas’s primary resource concerns: water quality, water quantity, soil erosion, soil condition, plant condition and air quality. Of the 33 million acres in Arkansas, 49,346 farms cover 13.8 million acres and produce over $8.9 billion in farm sales.

Cleaner Air

Air quality was improved throughout Arkansas by treating poultry litter with alum to reduce ammonia emissions by more than 50 percent. More than 39,000 tons of litter was treated in approximately 178 poultry houses.

Cleaner Water

Farmers and ranchers entered into more than 628 agreements to improve water quality by reducing phosphorous and sediment loads with practices for management of animal waste, cropland, forestry, and grassland amounting to $17,803,392. Conservation was applied to 90,770 acres of land to improve water quality – an area twice the size of Bull Shoals Lake. Also, 238 comprehensive nutrient management plans were written and applied resulting in reduced pollutants in the surface waters of Arkansas. Poultry producers installed 26 composting facilities to dispose of dead poultry in an environmental friendly method.

Efficient Water Use

In 2010, 13,391 acres of cropland – the equivalent of 10,300 football fields – were precision leveled to reduce the quantity of irrigation water pumped from Arkansas’s groundwater.

Arkansas approved 485 agreements totaling $11,187,022 to improve irrigation water quantity through improved collection, storage, delivery and management. Almost 308,838 feet of underground pipeline – enough to pipe water from Little Rock to Hot Springs – was installed on 220 farms. Also, 308 water control structures were applied to aid in managing water and controlling runoff.

Forty Agricultural Water Enhancement Program contracts were funded for $754,375.

Disaster Assistance

Six emergency action plans were prepared for high-hazard dams to assist if an event occurs that might endanger the flood water retarding structure and any residents living downstream of the structure. When floods, tornadoes and ice storms devastated Arkansas, NRCS contracted $2.3 million of work to remove debris from stream channels and bridges and stabilize stream banks.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Councils, Inc., worked through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program to provide grants and loan guarantees to make energy efficient improvements or install renewable energy equipment in agriculture production facilities.

The RC&D Councils in Arkansas made 18 presentations, resulting in 49 REAP grants totaling $248,437, with a grand total of $993,748 in project work. Seven energy audit data collectors were trained to conduct energy audits.

The Ag Energy Risk Management Cost Reduction Strategies program will enable the council to provide 28 workshops to landowners, industry and other agencies on ways to identify energy cost reductions in agriculture production operations.

Approximately 7,000 farms in Arkansas produce poultry. New energy-efficient lighting is being promoted for poultry houses. A limited supply of lights will be distributed to poultry houses with the help of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. When these energy improvements are implemented, energy savings will be greater than 20 percent.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program provided funding for 43 contracts totaling $59,738 for agriculture energy management (Conservation Activity Plans) using technical service providers.

Making Private Forests Healthier

NRCS obligated more than $1 million to apply 542 forestry practices on private forest land. New forests were created on more than 7,000 acres by planting more than 3 million trees. That’s like planting one tree for each person in Arkansas.

Over the next 30 years, these trees will remove approximately 635,000 tons of carbon from the air, improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. The health and vigor of 2,200 acres of existing forest was also improved by adjusting species composition and density of trees.

More Habitat For Nature’s Creatures

Wildlife habitat was established or improved on 83,911 acres, including fence, firebreak and stream bank and shoreline protection. More than 115,223 acres of grazing for livestock was managed to improve the quality and quantity of food on 1,536 farms.

Forage grasses were established on more than 7,310 acres -- enough to plant the fairways on approximately 100 18-hole golf courses -- to improve livestock nutrition and health on 408 farms.

Almost one million feet of fencing was installed to improve grazing management. That’s 190 miles – the distance from Little Rock to Fayetteville.

More than 112,877 feet of pipeline was installed and 316 water facilities were installed to improve grazing management on 240 farms. Improved grazing management benefitted quail, deer, turkeys and migratory birds.

Big Impacts for Small Farmers

Lee Pauley, a limited resource farmer in Mineral Springs received 90 percent cost share for a submersible pump well that pumps 40 gallons of water a minute allowing him to use drip lines for irrigating his family farm.

A farmer in Lonoke is being helped with advanced payment through EQIP to establish grazing land and water sources for his livestock. Advanced payments for Limited Resource Farmers were not available before the 2008 Farm Bill.

Another limited resource row crop farmer was assisted with establishing a reservoir on his farm to catch runoff surface water for irrigation and help save the groundwater.

Migratory Bird Habitat

Mallards, mottled ducks, upland sandpiper and a host of other birds migrating south this year will find more than 65,000 additional acres with enhanced habitat and water in Arkansas.

Accommodations will include flooded fields and increased vegetation for food and cover. Arkansas is one of eight states participating in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. Landowners in 30 counties submitted 1,881 applications totaling $42,272,033. We received $7.22 million and funded 343 contracts.

Soil Quality

This year, 113,196 acres (or 177 square miles) of cropland were treated to improve soil quality. NRCS got its start 75 years ago because of severe soil erosion and we are still improving the land today.

Restoring Arkansas’s Wetlands

Landowners and partners in 12 counties placed more than 15,000 acres into Wetlands Reserve Program easements helping Arkansas maintain the No. 2 ranking in the nation with more than 215,000 acres of wetlands created – an area 1/3 the size of Rhode Island.

These restored wetlands provide habitat for waterfowl and wildlife and hosts declining species of bobwhite quail and neo-tropical migratory songbirds. More than 10,000 acres of wetlands were created, restored and enhanced.

NRCS Arkansas Staffing Trend 2000-2010 Chart

Arkansas Conservation Partnership

More than 231 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees serve Arkansas’s 75 counties from 61 field service centers throughout the state.

These employees work with private landowners and the Arkansas Conservation Partnership to preserve and maintain the natural resources of Arkansas.

The Arkansas Conservation Partnership is a unique force, combining the strengths of federal, state and local organizations along with educational institutions to help preserve and protect the Natural State. Formed in 1992, the partnership consists of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Association of Conservation District Employees, Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Councils Inc., University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the Arkansas Forestry Commission. The various agencies diverse missions complement each other.

Soil Surveys and National Resource Inventory

The Arkansas Soil Survey staff of 14 soil and Geographic Information Systems professionals modernized soils data on 703,817 acres. Interactive Soil Surveys are available online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov for all counties in Arkansas.

Arkansas NRCS published the Arkansas Natural Resources Inventory Summary from information derived from the 2007 National Resources Inventory Summary Report.

The report is the latest in a series of natural resources inventories conducted by NRCS and provides state consistent data for the 25-year period from 1982 through 2007.

The National Resource Inventory (NRI) is a national program that monitors the conservation efforts of our conservation programs and the trending of our natural resources. The results from this inventory are used to develop environmental policy for program implementation, such as the Farm Bill.

Grazing Lands

Technical assistance for owners and managers of grasslands in Arkansas is an important component of the NRCS program. The Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) was founded to provide high quality technical assistance on privately owned grazing lands on a voluntary basis and to increase the awareness of the importance of grazing land resources.

This year’s successes include collaborating with the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council on hosting the spring grazing tour, holding two grazing workshops in Monticello and Hope, presenting awards to a producer (Bill Dunham, Booneville) and two educators (LeVonna Uekman, NRCS, and Bob Rhodes, Cooperative Extension Service), holding numerous one-day sessions across the state, funding demonstrations on clover establishment and nutrient management of pastures, and writing monthly articles for the Arkansas Cattlemen’s magazine.

Forty-five grazing lands presentations were conducted, reaching approximately 1,750 people. The presentations included limited resource farmer training with Heifer International, Iowa Forage and Grassland Council meeting, grazing conferences in Georgia and Louisiana, grazing workshops in southern Arkansas, several fence-building presentations throughout the state, training NRCS and University of Arkansas personnel to conduct grazing trainings, a webinar for Southern Sustainable Ag Workers Group and presentations at their annual meeting, several county meetings of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association and their annual state meeting, the annual Youth Conservation Camp, and the annual Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts meeting.

Considerable effort was put into NRCS personnel training this year through Pasture Ecology I and II as well as an emphasis placed on development of fact sheets and jobs sheets.

Nineteen Grassland Reserve Program contracts were funded for $1,204,230.

Earth Team

Arkansas has 1,970 active Earth Team volunteers who provided more than 8,434.25 hours of service.

Volunteers throughout the state helped at forestry clinics, field days, fair booths, outreach meetings, Earth Day, Farm Safety Day Camp, Great Outdoors Day, Progressive Agricultural Safety Day Camp and Envirothon contests. Volunteers also assisted with grazing land workshops, surveying, preparing EQIP contract folders, collecting data for farm plans, GPS readings, generating maps for ToolKit, wildlife habitat improvements; put together letters, informational packets and contacted numerous landowners for Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. Other work activities benefitted such projects as the Mississippi River Basin Incentives Program, Marion Lake project, 319 grants, field surveys and Excel spreadsheets.

Retired NRCS staff worked as volunteers to answer 2008 Farm Bill questions including technical information about programs, wrote letters to participants, helped with audits and meetings, and facilitated the Eastern Bluebird box activity with volunteers donating more than 50 hours constructing 218 bluebird nesting boxes.

Earth Team volunteers also supported the Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&D) as they networked and promoted public awareness of ongoing projects resulting in more local support, and worked with area volunteer fire departments with the grant application process, volunteers provided mechanical help on equipment to operate an alternative crop project, and contributed knowledge in RC&D contract administration and engineering technical advice.

Watershed Program

The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act authorizes the NRCS to provide assistance to local organizations in planning and implementing watershed projects.

In fiscal year 2010, NRCS received approval for the plan supplemental of the Big Slough Watershed, a flood control project in northeast Arkansas near Piggott to spend federal dollars once they become available.

Design and land rights acquisition was in process for the Departee Creek Watershed for dam construction and channel selective clearing and snagging.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds were used to repair four structures in the Poteau River Watershed, Fourche Watershed and Upper Petit Jean Watershed. The Upper Petit Jean Watershed is a rural water supply for Booneville and surrounding communities in west Arkansas.

The first PL-566 Rehabilitation watershed project was completed for the city of Waldron, which is also their water supply.

Three flood water retarding structure assessments related to dam safety for the PL-566 rehabilitation program were performed in the Big Creek Watershed in Craighead County.

Resource Conservation and Development

Arkansas’s seven Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&D) and sponsoring organizations had another great year. Arkansas was allocated $886,410 for the RC&D Program in FY 2010 and leveraged those dollars to complete 120 projects valued at $6,089,772.00.

  • On the Natural Resources front, Arkansas’s RC&D Councils’ efforts resulted in 12,848 acres of crop, forest or grazing lands treated, 2,500 acres preserved or protected and 6,370 acres of non-federal fish and wildlife habitat was protected or improved. Eleven rivers or streams were improved.
     

  • Community Services - Administered 61 grants; 50 Rural Fire Department services were improved; three disaster and/or emergency preparedness services were provided or improved; two health care services were provided or improved; and 25 various other community services were provided or improved.
     

  • Business - Eight new businesses were created, one business retained and two businesses expanded. This in turn resulted in 34 jobs being created and two jobs being retained.
     

  • Outreach - Conducted 16 workshops, seminars and tours, and led 35 training sessions on leadership development, business development, non-profit management and grant writing. Seventy-seven instructors were involved, providing training to 2,382 participants.
     

  • The Arkansas Association of RC&D Councils (AARC&DC), with the assistance of Charles Gangluff, RFPP program manager, wrote 52 Comprehensive Fire Plans and mailed out 128,000 dues notices as part of the FD Billing Services that AARC&DC provides. AARC&DC held two full and three mini ISO Training Workshops, three Rural Water Supply (Tanker) classes and two Fire Fighter Retirement System Presentations. AARC&DC also assisted with the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Annual Fire Show, the Johnson County Fire Safety Parade & KidsFest, and submitted three grant applications.
     

  • Farmers Markets - Many of the councils have been working to develop markets for non-traditional crops and working with local industry to expand their available products. They are expanding and creating new farmers markets around the state.
     

  • Community Facilities/Services - Council are assisting communities to improve and make available health care facilities, senior citizen centers, offering Alzheimer Caregiver Workshops, conducting "Teen Summits" to educate about the dangers and consequences of risky behaviors, restoration of historic sites, and creating recreational facilities and parks.
     

  • Natural Resource and Conservation Management - Councils provide timber management by promoting the steward plans with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, assistance with rural water supplies, drainage improvements, conservation education, outdoor classrooms, wetland restoration, expansion of a sweet potato co-op and processing facility and disposal of hazardous household chemicals. To benefit both game and non-game species and encourage elk to stay within the park boundaries, the Northwest Arkansas RC&D is assisting several cooperating agencies with restoration and expansion of large mammal habitat in the Buffalo National River.
     

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - RC&D promoted NRCS’ Ag Energy Management Plans and Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program.

RC&Ds are also working on other Energy Efficiency Collaborative Projects. The "Ag Energy Risk Management Cost Reduction Strategies Program" has enabled councils to provide 28 workshops to landowners, industry and other agencies on ways to identify energy cost reductions in agriculture production operations. The "Deployment of Advanced Lighting Technology to Poultry Growers" Project funded by the Arkansas Energy Office will enable the councils to introduce more energy efficient lightig for poultry production.

Arkansas’s RC&D Councils have also entered into an agreement with NRCS to do outreach and education associated with NRCS’ "Agricultural Energy Conservation and Efficiency Initiative."

Plant Materials Center

As part of a national network of Plant Materials Centers (PMC) that provide vegetative solutions to conservation problems the Booneville PMC serves 54 million acres in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

The five member staff provided 32 hours of new employee training, 160 hours of service to 235 customers, and conducted 15 tours. The Booneville Center has released ‘Bumpers’ eastern gamagrass, Hampton big bluestem, and OH-370 big bluestem for use in conservation systems in the Southern Ozarks, Boston Mountains, Arkansas River Valley, Ouachita Mountains, and Southern Blackland Prairie.

To provide information on production and management of native warm-season grasses, the staff conducted 30 evaluations on 19 center studies and 12 field plantings, made 15 oral presentations, provided information to four news agencies, and wrote six technical documents.

The center has developed partnerships with Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Pine Bluff, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The PMC provides assistance to the East Arkansas Enterprise Community and the National Black Growers Council.